A group of North Carolina voters and man campaigning for Congress filed a federal lawsuit this week asking the court not to allow lawmakers or the State Board of Elections to enact a new Congressional map ahead of the 2020 election.
The suit comes four days after a three-judge panel in Wake County Superior Court issued a preliminary injunction barring state from using the 2016 Congressional map in the next election because it was likely unconstitutionally gerrymandered for extreme partisan gain. It’s still early in that litigation process, but the court said the plaintiffs in that case, Harper v. Lewis, were likely to succeed based on the merits of their argument.
The plaintiffs in the federal case say using a different map this close to filing for the 2020 primaries violates their right to vote and participate in an electoral structure to protect the integrity of the election process.
“North Carolina voters have been subjected to a decade of lawsuits regarding their election districts,” the lawsuit states. “This litigation has instituted a dizzying array of actual and threatened last minute changes to the election process.”
The judges in Harper have encouraged lawmakers to begin their own redistricting process for a new Congressional map to avoid moving state primary elections, but they cannot order a mandatory redraw at this point in the process. They can move the primary election date if litigation drags on.
The plaintiffs and the Congressional candidates they support, according to the lawsuit, have relied on a separate lower court opinion to base their political associations and begin campaigns, including fundraising and electioneering for Congress since the elections started in 2016.
The political parties for example, organize themselves based upon congressional districts which recruit candidates and fundraise for congress,” the document states. “Candidates, should they become congressmen, provide constituent services based upon their residences within the congressional districts so that voters can hold congressmen accountable for their actions.”
Billy Joe Brewster Jr., for example, has established a campaign committee, hired consultants, published videos, solicited donations and communicated directly with identified voters within his district in his effort to become a party nominee in the March, 2020 primary, the lawsuit states.
The suit argues there is too much of a process this close to the primary to just put on pause and that it will cause voter confusion.
The federal court already has said it does not have jurisdiction over the state laws at issue in the Harper case, but this lawsuit appears to be another attempt to get around that legislation by involving a separate set of potential harms from enjoining the use of the 2016 map.
A hearing has not yet been set in the new case, Brewster v. Berger, which was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina. Read the full lawsuit below.